Making the choice to get fit is an easy. It’s the execution that’ll kill ya. I make the choice to get fit every single day, almost immediately followed by the choice to do it tomorrow. But this time, I’m committing. I’ve done this two other times in my life, that I can remember. Found myself 50-70 lbs, 3 sizes, and way too much arm fat more than I would like to be. Let’s explore that, actually. It’s not that I’d like to be thin and fit – I mean, it’s not just that I’d like to be that way. It’s that I feel that way. Everybody has a sense of themselves without having to look in a mirror or look down at themselves.
A lot of girls have a negative sense of themselves – they always think they’re fatter, globbier, uglier than they really are. I’m the opposite. When I walk down the street, I’m thin, beautiful, graceful, fit, and just perfectly normal. A little prettier than average, but not so strikingly beautiful that people stop and stare. I’m the kind of beautiful that peaks around the corners of my personality, sneaky-like. This is who I am. I don’t think it’s a distorted idea of what my actual beauty is; I think it’s my soul. Not to get all frou-frou on you. I didn’t grow up thin. I was a fat, awkward kid with frizzy blonde hair tied at the nape of her neck. I had absolutely no sense of style (I’m talking old-man fisherman’s cap, v-neck sweater, and JNCO pants. Not joking.)
I was golden-skinned, green-eyed, a foot taller than everybody in my class and fat. I also spent the majority of my childhood with goggle marks around my eyes and a lower lip so chapped it looked like I had three. So where did this sense of beauty come from? Why do I – why have I always felt beautiful? My best guess is that I was quite the beauty movie-star-esque in a past life, did something awful and got stuck in this awkward, chubby, quirky girl with frizzy blonde hair. And, I Look great in hats.
But that’s what’s so surprising. I have this image of myself perforating through me, and then I round a corner and catch my reflection in a Starbucks window and BAM!
WHATTTTT?? Who is that? I’m met with this blob of curves – curves everywhere, some where they should be and others that belong on a middle-aged mother-of-three with post-partum depression. Where did that stomach come from? How long have I had more dimples on my arm than craters on the moon? What’s with that frizzy piece of hair that just refuses (and always has) to stay behind my ear? And, oh my god, the deep purple circles under my eyes really brings out the hazel.
I quickly look away, half ashamed, half disgusted (and maybe a little intrigued, in spite of myself), overcome the wave of overwhelming self-loathing and continue walking. The hardest thing about this is that once the choice is made to get fit and the choice continues to be made throughout the day to eat cleanly, drink water, and go to the gym, suddenly you’re at the gym – with gorgeous people, cut muscles, and perfect tans.
Not to mention the mirrors. Mirrors. Everywhere. Mirrors showing angles you didn’t even know existed. It’s like sex-ed homework all over again. As encouraging as mirrors are for toned, strong, beautiful people, they’re discouraging for those of us who are on weeks 1-6 of our Summer Body Lifestyle Change.
Everywhere I turn, there I am. Not the svelte woman of my mind – the clumpy, broke girl who hides, runs, and cries in secret. That girl. The girl I hate. I hate her. The girl who threatens to ruin my life, my lifestyle, my attitude. The girl who sneaks up on me, preys on me. The girl who begs me to stay in bed all day, eating nutella crepes, watching television, and napping with my cats. The girl who tugs at the corners of my mouth, pressing wrinkles into my cheaks and stretch marks into my stomach and thighs. That girl. The girl who in a moment’s notice will flip me from dancing and laughing to throwing a plate across the room, screaming, shrieking, frustrated, angry, alone, and pathetic. That wimpering girl. She threatens every second of every day, hiding in the shadows of my self, the matzahball-sized lump in my throat, the tickle in my nose, the heat behind my eyes, the nails-on-a-chalkboard grating claustrophobia that pricks my scalp, makes me twitch and itch and scratch until I bleed.
I walk into the gym, my tunes blasting, I’m jiving, smiling, strutting with swag, and there she is – I can see her – a peripheral shadow in the corner of my eye, taunting me, goading me. Look at me. Look at me. I know you want to. Turn your head. Look in the mirror, bitch. And I do. I glance over. Every time. I glance over, head-to-toe, and my stomach drops right to my toes. LEAVE ME ALONE I WANT NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU I AM DONE WITH YOU WHY DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND. My eyes leaks and my chin quivers as I clench my jaw, desperate to not let her win, to show her how strong I am. You’re weak. You’re fat. You’re lazy.
What do I say to her? How do I shut her up? THAT’S WHY I’M HERE. TO GET STRONGER.
The other two times I started this regimen, I was fat. I was lazy. I was depressed. I was coming off of a long stint of borderline alcoholism and definite overeating. Both times, I did it. I started the routine, I started the lifestyle, I changed my habits, and I made it through. What was my secret?
Not paying attention, I think. It wasn’t about the end result. It was about the moment. It wasn’t about how hot I was going to look later on. It was about how much fun I was having watching TV on the elliptical, reading Sherlock Holmes on the bikes, dancing Zumba, pumping to tunes in Spin Class, meditating in Yoga. The moment when I realized I do have ab muscles and I can lift my shoulder blades off the ground (I always thought that was a myth.)
The moments when I find out how strong I actually am. Sure, I can’t do a pull-up for shit, nor can I lift anything with my triceps, but I did a pushup. That moment when I said “fuck it. I’ll fucking try.” And there it was: one full push-up, straight-legged, straight-backed, nose to ground, down and up. I was astounded. I was so excited that I lost control of the second one and fell on my face. It was funny. The moment when I found out my calves are BALLER and my quads are powerhouses! I can leg-press 300 lbs – and that’s not even my max.
In PE, sophomore year, when the other girls could barely lift the 45lb bar, I out-pressed half of the guys in my class. 90lbs, baby! Suddenly, I was a Boss. The girls called me butch, but the guys were impressed. These moments. These are the moments I live for.
These are the changes I have to make to my life. Most gym rats are idiots. They work out all day because that’s all they can do to feel superior because they have brawns for brains. But me? I’m brains and brawns. All the thinking, musing, reading, television watching, meditating that I do while eating on my bed I can do at the gym. I can do all of it at the gym. I can work at the gym, I can play at the gym. I can stretch at the gym, have conversations at the gym, catch up with my mom, plan a wedding, Pinterest! I need to recreate my FITNESS Pinterest account, download some more of my favorite tunes, find a collection of books I want to read and line up my Hulu+ queue.
And when I get to the gym and I see that lonely, sad, hurting shadow of a girl in the mirror, I can say to her, “you don’t have to be ashamed. Look at everything you’re doing to make yourself better. Wipe the tear from your eye and help me rebuild myself.”